Well it’s hard to believe, but 2017 is in the books! This year was a mixed bag of exciting newcomers, victory laps, and some dodged sophomore slumps making it easily one of the most interesting ones this decade, musically speaking. So without further ado here are 2017’s 100 Best Songs:
100. “Havana” Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug
Jumping ship from a pop group still in the process of solidifying their prominence is about as audacious as audacity gets, but Camila Cabello clearly feels like she can pull it off. “Havana” certainly backs up her confidence to some extent.
99. “Malibu” Miley Cyrus
For as polarizing as Miley Cyrus’ personality has been, her buttoned up trial run of sobriety is nowhere near as interesting. Still, she rises to the occasion on her sleek, summery “Malibu,” which is arguably a bigger “banger” than she’s ever concocted.
98. “Little Dark Age” MGMT
Even though MGMT will probably always be viewed as a one-album wonder, they’ve been crafting compelling music since their debut. The spacey “Little Dark Age” is part-Kraftwerk part-Talking Heads, yet it still brings a new dynamic to their catalog.
97. “The Cure” Lady Gaga
On one hand, “The Cure” could be an aptly titled attempt to remedy Joanne, considered a commercial misstep by some, but on the other, it’s just Lady Gaga doing Lady Gaga. The electro pseudo-ballad doesn’t reach the creative peaks we’re used to, but it works.
96. “Life’s About To Get Good” Shania Twain
For as enormous as she is, and as long as she’s been around, country legend Shania Twain hasn’t been particularly prolific. After a nearly 15-year hiatus, “Life’s About To Get Good” is more than just a welcomed return, it’s a celebration.
95. “Living In The City” Hurray For The Riff Raff
There’s always been the opportunity to make cool, meaningful folk music, and Hurray For The Riff Raff have no qualms about going for it. “Living In The City” juxtaposes catchy, uplifting plucking with earnest lyrics, a tried and true formula when done right.
94. “That’s What I Like” Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars has very clearly honed his skills in modernizing vintage sounds and turning them into mega hits. There’s nothing particularly new about “That’s What I Like,” but its authentic soulfulness holds its own in today’s diverse landscape, and that says something.
93. “You’re The Best Thing About Me” U2
In the context of U2, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is business as usual, but that doesn’t work against it. For as true-to-form as the track sounds, it no doubt holds up in today’s landscape, something the group has consistently excelled in for over 35 years.
92. “Look What You Made Me Do” Taylor Swift
Of all of Taylor Swift’s lead singles “Look What You Made Me Do” fizzles out the fastest; that isn’t to say it’s a total misfire. The “I’m Too Sexy”-interpolating anthem is her most invigorated yet, almost to the point of her tricking us into thinking she’s abandoned her old tricks.
91. “Despacito (Remix)” Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber
From a commercial standpoint, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” was 2017’s biggest track, thanks in part to a feature from some guy named Justin Bieber. The infectious track will always go down as a monumental landmark in crossover latin pop.
90. “It Gets More Blue” Girlpool
With their understated folky punk, Girlpool has the talent and critical support to really go somewhere while bypassing the usual prerequisite of commercial appeal. “It Gets More Blue,” a key cut from their Powerplant LP, is a beautifully emotive example.
89. “DNA.” Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick’s ferocity on “DNA.” makes it a standout on an album as commercially-focused as DAMN. In a lot of ways, the track is just a platform for the rapper to show off his incredible skills, but he doesn’t forget to let the lyrics sit front and center.
88. “Walk On Water” Eminem ft. Beyoncé
There’s no way two superstars of this magnitude could ever join forces and let us down. If anything “Walk On Water” misses the mark slightly because it’s so far from expected on paper, but the piano-led ballad is so stripped back that it creates plenty of space for beauty.
87. “Don’t Take The Money” Bleachers
Jack Antonoff has gone on to become such a sought after collaborator that it’s a wonder that he can still take the time to focus on his own Bleachers music. “Don’t Take The Money” is an amazing new wave-inspired anthem, co-written by none other than Lorde.
86. “Dig Down” Muse
It’s hard to believe, but Muse has been a consistent force in rock for almost 20 years. Their electro-infused “Dig Down” only expands upon their sound slightly, but with its heralding climax and synth pulses, it’s definitely a welcomed addition to their catalog.
85. “Shape Of You” Ed Sheeran
One could easily award “Shape Of You” the recognition of 2017’s biggest earworm, making it no surprise that it was one of the year’s most inescapable hits. Still, the track is better in concept than it is in practice, especially for an artist renowned for his refined simplicity.
84. “High” Little Dragon
Little Dragon’s “High” is a lush electro-R&B slow jam more than a little influenced by “Between The Sheets”/”Big Poppa,” but to call it a rehash would be unfairly harsh. The track feels like a refreshing update, and its delicate hook is nothing short of perfection.
83. “Anymore” Goldfrapp
Goldfrapp have always been a yin and yang of dance pop bangers and ethereal electro ballads, but it’s been a while since they’ve properly gone for the former. “Anymore” doesn’t venture into new territory, but it doesn’t need to when home feels so good.
82. “Dum Surfer” King Krule
Archy Marshall’s most prominent moniker King Krule has drawn incredible critical adoration for his boundless talents. “Dum Surfer” about sums up his ability to make sense out of cacophony. It’s trip hop, it’s rock, it’s jazzy, and it makes no sense… but it makes perfect sense.
81. “Wall Of Glass” Liam Gallagher
The relief of Liam Gallagher’s first solo single feeling like pure rejuvenation is beyond words, which is most of why it comes off as a success. It doesn’t break new ground for an artist 25 years into his career, but it does dig a little deeper into why he’s had one.
80. “T-Shirt” Migos
A track like “Bad & Boujee” is not easy to follow, but Migos are not one trick ponies. “T-Shirt” sticks true to their personality, which, if they keep it up, could carry their career much further than most artists in their situation. Regardless, they’re not one hit wonders.
79. “BagBak” Vince Staples
Vince Staples’ authoritative “BagBak” features so many intricacies, from its nuanced beat to, to its bite sized hooks, to its scathing assessment of today’s political climate, that it leaves us feeling completely satisfied despite clocking in under three minutes.
78. “Spent The Day In Bed” Morrissey
As a solo artist, Morrissey’s output has been outrageously polarizing, but he reminds us of his distinct function when he gets it right. Thankfully, “Spent The Day In Bed” does just that. With social commentary through the Moz-lens, refined catchiness luckily wins out.
77. “Ti Amo” Phoenix
The title track to Phoenix’s sixth studio effort doesn’t unnecessarily recreate the wheel, but it doesn’t feel redundant either. The guitars are borrowed from metal, the bass from funk, and the rest from synthpop, and they sew it together with an anthemic hook.
76. “Mi Gente (Remix)” J Blavin and Willy William ft. Beyoncé
From one perspective, “Mi Gente” does appear to capitalize on “Despacito’s” formula for crossover success, but… Beyoncé. Released to aid in hurricane relief efforts, Queen Bey’s contributions are a welcomed addition to the already infectious track.
75. “Century” Feist ft. Jarvis Cocker
Indie singer-songwriter Feist’s career has been largely overshadowed by her lone commercial success, but she’s always been an artist worth paying attention to. “Century” is a moody thumper that features an intriguing oration by the legendary Jarvis Cocker.
74. “Right Now” HAIM
While known for their rhythmic pop-rock compositions on record, HAIM are rock stars on stage. “Right Now,” a key cut from their second studio effort, bridges the gap beautifully, beginning with a sparse synth loop that explodes into a percussive frenzy.
73. “Biking” Frank Ocean ft. Jay-Z and Tyler, The Creator
One of his four stand-alone singles released this year, “Biking” is more of a demonstration of Frank Ocean’s desire to create beauty out of imperfection, albeit by design. Jay-Z’s verse sounds like it was recored over the phone, but it sets the stage gorgeously.
72. “Where’s The Revolution” Depeche Mode
No one would have predicted that one of the year’s first major political commentaries would come from Depeche Mode. Of course, “Where’s The Revolution” is still served on platter of moody synthesizers and intense melody in a way only these legends could present.
71. “Perfect Duet” Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé
If they hadn’t waited until the past possible second to unleash what could have been 2017’s most monumental collaboration, Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé’s duet version of “Perfect” would surely have faired better here. Still, the track is as decadent as you could imagine.
70. “Roses” BJ The Chicago Kid
As BJ The Chicago Kid continues to cement the part he’s playing in carrying the future of R&B, even understated stand alone releases are going to attract attention when they’re as well-executed as “Roses.” The track is simple, velvety, and still catchy.
69. “Three Rings” Grizzly Bear
“Three Rings” is an immersive experience, far more a thinking piece than a comprehensible one, that forced us to dive into the deep end following a five-year hiatus from new music rather than ease ourselves back into their unique perspective.
68. “Up All Night” Beck
As one of the most immediate cuts from Beck’s long-teased Colors, “Up All Night” certainly lends itself to its parent album’s title. The track is permissibly infectious in a way only an artist of Beck’s caliber could get away with and not feel desperate.
67. “Who That Boy” Tyler, The Creator ft. A$AP Rocky
“Who Dat Boy,” one half of the first single lifted from Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy is, personality-wise, more in step with the artist’s previous works. However, it is undeniably, almost inexplicably, more refined, and a feature from A$AP Rocky certainly helps.
66. “Undercover” Kehlani
Superstar-on-the-rise Kehlani paid no mind to whether or not it was time to recycle Akon’s “Don’t Matter” quite yet with her single “Undercover,” and why should she when she pulled it off? R&B-pop jams like this are sadly becoming endangered species.
65. “All I Can Think About Is You” Coldplay
Released on their Kaleidoscope EP, Coldplay’s brief but superior counterpart to their A Head Full Of Dreams LP, the track is a clear nod to a time when they were a hungry alternative rock act on the cusp of superstardom, but with the confidence of when they realized it.
64. “Dangerous” The xx
The opening number to The xx’s third studio effort begins with a blast of muted horns before giving way to a delirious, funky bassline. “Dangerous” doesn’t go on to become the club banger it fools you into thinking it will, and that is probably for the best.
63. “New York” St. Vincent
Stripped of the production quality that has elevated her to the indie heroine she is, St. Vincent’s “New York” is a beautifully uncharacteristic masterclass in vulnerability. A petite, frill-less composition this delicate is not a resignation, but a showcase of diversity.
62. “Saturnz Barz” Gorillaz ft. Popcaan
The dancehall-infused “Saturnz Barz” reminds us why Gorillaz has been the perfect vehicle for Damon Albarn to quench his lust for experimentation and collaboration. With Popcaan taking the helm, the track is beautifully hypnotic, yet undeniably memorable.
61. “Automaton” Jamiroquai
It’s been seven years since we’ve heard anything new from innovative electro-funk masterminds Jamiroquai. Their “Automaton” may draw Daft Punk comparisons, but the track is more of a history lesson of the genre they helped give a commercial platform to.
60. “1 Night” Mura Masa ft. Charli XCX
Mura Masa is in prime position to take over as EDM’s leading presence if his Charli XCX collaboration “1 Night” is anything to go off of. Outside of Charli’s expectedly memorable melody, the tropical house-infused beat successfully favors groove over euphoria.
59. “LOYALTY.” Kendrick Lamar ft. Rihanna
Rihanna’s contributions to one of DAMN.‘s most obvious standouts feels more textural at times than collaborative, but hers is a necessary presence. Otherwise, “LOYALTY.” is tactfully restrained by its beat, which prevents it from falling off the rails.
58. “The Gate” Björk
Working your way through a Björk composition can be a process, but an absolutely beautiful one if you commit yourself. “The Gate” is a journey, uncomfortable at times, weening itself towards catharsis in a way only an artist of this merit would attempt.
57. “Run For Cover” The Killers
Although they have proven themselves as multi-faceted, The Killers are relentless in remaining true to their sound. It’s required much patience along the way, but the heralding “Run For Cover,” with its explosive energy feels like an epic payoff.
56. “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” Foo Fighters
At this point in their career, the Foo Fighters don’t particularly need to expand on their sound, but it’s clear that they want to. “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” is a bluesy, psychedelic thumper that could have been an anthem at any point over the last 40 years.
55. “Too Good At Goodbyes” Sam Smith
In a year with several hotly anticipated sophomore efforts, Sam Smith smartly stuck to what he does best. “Too Good At Goodbyes” is a soulful, gospel-infused ballad that sits comfortably in the artist’s wheelhouse, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash.
54. “rockstar” Post Malone ft. 21 Savage
This year, Post Malone proved that he was not a fluke with his mega-hit “rockstar.” Equipped with a take-it-or-leave-it verse from 21 Savage, the track features a gorgeously simple, atmospheric beat that leaves plenty of space for something memorable to lay on top.
53. “Lemon” N.E.R.D. ft. Rihanna
For as prominent Pharrell has been in pop music over the past 2 decades, his beloved N.E.R.D. has been noticeably absent. The group’s first single in 7 years, “Lemon” features a contribution from the reliable Rihanna who helps bring a needed sass to its infectious beat.
52. “American Dream” LCD Soundsystem
Acting as the title track to LCD Soundsystem’s highly anticipated comeback album, as well as one half of its AA-sided lead single, “American Dream” is an emotive 6-minute explosion of atmosphere that feels just as cathartic as it does urgent.
51. “Smile” Jay-Z ft. Gloria Carter
Jay-Z’s confessional 4:44 features moments of remorse, sincerity, and ultimate growth, but “Smile” is unique. Demonstrating his love for his mother and acceptance of her sexual orientation, the track is a mile marker for hip hop in as a culture.
50. “Call It What You Want” Taylor Swift
“Call It What You Want” is the clear standout from Taylor Swift’s juggernaut Reputation. There’s no denying that T. Swift is the Queen of Earworms, and this is no exception, even through the track’s delicate intensity and refined, synth-led atmosphere.
49. “Holding On” The War On Drugs
If you zone out just enough while listening to “Holding On,” you’d think you had landed on a long lost cut form Born In The USA or The Unforgettable Fire, but The War On Drugs’ euphoric anthem actually breathes such new life into the sound you’d be wrong to call it dated.
48. “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness” The National
The National have long since established themselves as one of alternative rock’s premiere mood-creators, but Sleep Well Beat‘s lead single lifts them to a new stratosphere. The track’s intensity harks back to Nick Cave’s “Mercy Seat,” albeit far more melodic.
47. “Everything Now” Arcade Fire
When Arcade Fire misses the mark, they still land pretty close the bullseye. Sure, “Everything Now” doesn’t capture the uplifting zeitgeist of their previous works, but the track remains a bonafide anthem that doesn’t quite know if it wants to be “Born To Run” or “Dancing Queen.”
46. “Ballad Of A Dying Man” Father John Misty
Father John Misty has established himself as a reliable artist whose new material is always going to be worth digging into. The folky, piano-led “Ballad Of A Dying Man” feels like a beautiful lament, baring stark contrast to the protagonist’s bitter, cynical retrospect.
45. “Bodak Yellow” Cardi B
Rising star Cardi B’s summit-reaching “Bodak Yellow” was easily one of the year’s most noteworthy moments. Not only does her hunger for success saturate her delivery, but the track’s beat has a striking presence for being so simple, and it all comes together flawlessly.
44. “Slow Hands” Niall Horan
In many ways, One Direction’s dark horse Niall is pulling off his solo career better than most of his bandmates. “Slow Hands” is a bite-sized funky folk thumper with a restrained sexiness, and it’s a total earworm to boot. Horan delivers it effortlessly.
43. “1-800-273-8255” Logic ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid
Rightfully, the social consciousness of Logic’s anti-suicide anthem certainly pulls most of the focus, but the track has the musical merit to hold up. With three of the most exciting artists-on-the-rise joining forces like this, the track was certainly set up for success.
42. “Legend Has It” Run The Jewels
Superduo Run The Jewels left no time in 2016 to acknowledge their impeccable Run The Jewels 3 LP or it’s impeccable single “Legend Has It,” so the exception has to be made. Its sleek production and impressive verse-trading are truly remarkable.
41. “Die Young” Sylvan Esso
With lyrics so morbidly sweet even Morrissey would be jealous, electropop duo Sylvan Esso’s “Die Young” is a delicate ode to love’s rejuvenating ability. The intricate melodies and layered synths slyly water down the protagonist’s suicide aspirations.
40. “We Got The Power” Gorillaz ft. Jehnny Beth
It’s fitting that this timely injection of hope features the epic coming together of former rivals Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher, who lends his guitar skills. However, it’s guest vocalist Jehnny Beth (of Savages) who steals the focus with her call-to-arms delivery.
39. “Feel It Still” Portugal. The Man
This year’s huge alternative rock crossover unexpectedly went to Portugal. The Man and their unstoppable “Feel It Still.” With delicate touches of horns to fluff up the groove, it’s really no surprise that a bite-sized earworm like this found its way to the top of the charts.
38. “My Old Man” Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco seems to be inching his way towards a major commercial breakthrough, but it’s really a matter of whether or not he wants one. “My Old Man” could have been a candidate for that moment. Its sparse jangles are both refined and endearing.
37. “Disco Tits” Tove Lo
“Disco Tits” is an example of electropop that matters. Without holding back on the lyrics, Swedish songstress Tove Lo syphons an intimidatingly sexy quality out of her infectious melody, which pairs intuitively with the pulsating backing track.
36. “LOVE.” Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari
Lyrically, “LOVE.” is, well, a pretty straight forward love song, but it’s sold in a way that only an artist like Kendrick Lamar could pull off without feeling totally contrived. It may be one of DAMN.‘s most accessible moments, but that only works in its favor.
35. “Supercut” Lorde
Three quarters of the way through “Supercut,” just when the momentum seems to finally be reaching its peak, Lorde abruptly cuts it off; it’s a risky move with a brilliant payoff. You could consider the track the unhinged “Green Light’s” mature older sibling.
34. “Don’t Kill My Vibe” Sigrid
Norwegian newcomer Sigrid could have an impressive career ahead of her if her debut banger is anything to go off of. The deliriously catchy “Don’t Kill My Vibe” is a confident, anthemic pseudo-ballad most seasoned pop stars would be too intimidated to attempt.
33. “Yuk Foo” Wolf Alice
After Wolf Alice’s stellar debut, the expectations surrounding its follow up were through the roof, but lead single “Yuk Foo” doesn’t lead on to any pressure. The unhinged whirlwind-of-a-punk-track borders on manic, but somehow remains charming.
32. “Cut To The Feeling” Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen has done the impossible by shedding her one hit wonder status with critical adoration. Maybe the public can’t look past “Call Me Maybe,” but the ’80s-tinged “Cut To The Feeling” (intro ripped directly from “Lucky Star”) is a should-be-anthem.
31. “Big Fish” Vince Staples
“Big Fish” demonstrates just how close Vince Staples actually is to joining the ranks of the hip hop elite, fittingly by addressing it directly. Not only is the beat simultaneously timeless and refreshing, but the rapper lets his personality shine through his verses.
30. “Passionfruit” Drake
Drake more or less exists in his own arena now, solidifying his position as hip hop’s most prolific crossover star. Lifted from his playlist (not album) More Life, the groovy, dancehall-tinged “Passionfruit” is one of his best works in some time.
29. “Lust For Life” Lana Del Rey ft. The Weeknd
The title track to Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life delivers exactly what it looks like on paper, and actually more. Featuring The Weeknd, the track is both seductive and explosive, moving from one hook to the another as it teases a climax that never properly arrives.
28. “New Rules” Dua Lipa
There’s no way around it, Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” is a bonafide banger that deserves to be celebrated. While tropical house is no stranger to modern pop, few tracks have pulled off this kind of flawless execution and still manage to avoid sounding like a rehash.
27. “Sign Of The Times” Harry Styles
There was no One Direction solo career more anticipated than Harry Styles’, and it was clear he was approaching it with tact. His debut single “Sign Of The Times” goes right for the jugular, carrying itself like an established classic rock anthem, and it works.
26. “Mask Off” Future
The ever-prolific Future seems to always have something circulating through public consciousness, so it’s always been relatively plausible his biggest hit could show up at any moment. Cue “Mask Off,” a flawlessly executed confessional doubling as an infectious banger.
25. “Mourning Sound” Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear have built their career around finding the perfect balance between indie rock’s unbridled creativity and obligatory palatability. While “Mourning Sound” favors the latter on the surface, it’s nothing more than a slight of hand few acts could pull off.
24. “Boys” Charli XCX
Charli XCX crafted her “Boys” to feel like a candy-coated dream land, but any thoughts of simplicity are side effects of the track’s hypnotic production. It takes serious talent to create this much transformative atmosphere and make it sound effortless.
23. “Slip Away” Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius’ explosive “Slip Away” is a masterclass in both songwriting and production. The compact pop gem borders on cacophony at times with layers and layers of vocals and thundering drums, but it never falls apart, and the end result is pure bliss.
22. “Slide” Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean and Migos
At the exact moment when Calvin Harris found himself on the edge of irrelevancy in the quickly evolving world of EDM, he unleashed the funky “Slide,” his best work since “We Found Love.” Of course, Frank Ocean was never going to let anything but happen.
21. “Perfect Places” Lorde
Baring contrast to Melodrama‘s euphoric lead single, “Perfect Places” feels more in step with the Lorde of her debut, albeit heavily evolved. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better audio snapshot of teenage uncertainty, especially one that leaves you feeling this hopeful.
20. “Hard Times” Paramore
How Paramore evolved into a synthpop anthem-crafter is one of life’s greatest mysteries, but they are pulling it off impeccably. The flawlessly unapologetic “Hard Times” is built around a heralding authoritative bass line that creates pure euphoria.
19. “Bad Liar” Selena Gomez
On paper, this should have gone terribly, but the precarious sample of “Psycho Killer’s” sacred bass riff somehow ends up being upstaged by the tracks’s sleek production, tactfully haphazard verses, and killer hook. Selena Gomez came out with guns blazing on this one.
18. “XO TOUR Llif3” Lil Uzi Vert
On the surface, Lil Uzi Vert’s mega hit “XO TOUR Llif3” runs the risk of becoming a parody of itself even before sad rap realizes the full mainstream prominence it inevitably will, but the track is not only strikingly self-aware, but injected with lyrical complexity.
17. “I Dare You” The xx
The xx’s third LP I See You has plenty of stand outs, but “I Dare You” is the piece that makes the whole puzzle make sense. Through all of its inherent timidness, the trio creates pure euphoria out of practically nothing, but it subtly comes out feeling melancholy.
16. “Praying” Kesha
Emerging as one of pop’s quirkiest party animals equipped with plenty of danceable bangers in her arsenal, Kesha’s highly anticipated return was the reset she needed. The gorgeously simple “Praying” is stripped of any musical pretense, but embraces her vulnerability.
15. “Chanel” Frank Ocean
Despite releasing his masterful Blonde album last year, Frank Ocean had a particularly prolific 2017. Stand alone single “Chanel” is as lush and effortlessly intricate as anything he’s ever done that it doesn’t need a home to stand out as one of his best moments.
14. “Love” Lana Del Rey
It’s almost easy to forget just how far Lana Del Rey has come since she emerged at the beginning of the decade. “Love” feels like a mile marker in her evolution. The track is unapologetically true-to-form, yet as captivating as anything she’s ever done, if not more.
13. “FEAR.” Kendrick Lamar
Through all of DAMN.‘s highlights, the introspective “FEAR.” stands out. Clocking in just under 8 minutes, the track’s slow groove, while hypnotic, provides a necessary landscape for Kendrick to walk us through the insecurities throughout his life. His vulnerability is gripping.
12. “3WW” alt-j
“3WW” stands out as one of this perpetually intriguing trio’s most enchanting moments. The track’s textured acoustic motif and guest vocals from Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell help guide us through an expectedly unconventional structure, and the result is beauty incarnate.
11. “Big For Your Boots” Stormzy
There’s no arguing that Stormzy sits at the forefront of grime’s unstoppable prominence. Oozing confidence, the hypnotically frenzied “Big For Your Boots” is an absolute herald that will no doubt go down as one of the genre’s defining fixtures.
10. “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” Sampha
Barring contrast to the etherial electro-R&B of its album-mates, Sampha’s “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” is fittingly built around its titular instrument, creating a unique stark atmosphere of its own. With the most delicate touches of kick drum, synths, and bird chirps for texture, he creates so much space for his beautiful melody to carry the burden of bringing the track to life. His delivery is so compelling, you’d almost believe he was in the room performing live.
09. “911/Mr. Lonely” Tyler, The Creator ft. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy
The persistently eccentric Tyler, The Creator experienced a critical peak this year, and “911/Mr. Lonely,” one half of Flower Boy‘s AA-sided lead single stands out as one of the year’s finest moments. Itself two vastly songs juxtaposed within a single track, its refined qualities and integral contributions from Frank Ocean and The Internet’s Steve Lacy don’t completely overshadow his quirkiness, including the fact that the soulful “Mr. Lonely” plays before the trap-infused “911,” countering the title.
08. “Young Dumb & Broke” Khalid
Newcomer Khalid established himself as welcomed presence in R&B with his well-received debut album project this year. “Young Dumb & Broke” is a bonafide anthem of nostalgia for that time in one’s life before the proper leap into adulthood; it’s particularly astute considering he was only 18 when it was released. The earworm of a track relies heavily on a simple backing track and a pair of infectious hooks that never seem to wear, and while the lyrics are bittersweet, he reminds us to focus on the latter.
07. “Third Of May / Ōdaigahara” Fleet Foxes
After a six-year hiatus, indie folk rockers Fleet Foxes made a highly anticipated return, launched with the superbly epic “Third Of May / Ōdaigahara.” The near-9 minute track follows a linear structure of several distinct melodies and peaks and valleys of intensity, but every second feels tactfully intentional; you could argue it’s 4 or 5 songs sewn into one. Featuring the group’s idiosyncratic harmonies and lush arrangements, the track is more than just a welcomed return, it’s a statement.
06. “Drew Barrymore” SZA
There is no doubt that SZA is one of the most exciting acts in the world today after delivering (and then some) with her debut LP project. Ctrl‘s lead single “Drew Barrymore” couldn’t have been more perfectly executed if she tried (or tried less.) The relaxed, atmospheric track gives SZA the space to sit front and center, and she more than capitalizes on the opportunity by creating a ping pong match of vulnerability and ferocity, but she makes it all sound so seamless that it comes out sounding quite fun.
05. “Want You Back” HAIM
If the sisters Haim have proven anything since we first heard them 5 years ago, it’s their ability to construct an dynamic tune, and “Want You Back” was no exception. While the lead single from their sophomore project doesn’t exactly take them into new territory, it demonstrates a refined advancement in their crafts(wo)manship. Their audacity to recycle the title and theme of the Jackson 5’s iconic debut single proves successful with their effortlessly intricate harmonies, rhythmic melodies, and sleek production.
04. “Call The Police” LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem’s comeback felt more like a return from an extended hiatus than a proper reunion following a disbandment, but would could be more James Murphy? The group’s proper comeback single, a double-A-sider led by “Call The Police” was met with an air of gratitude for seemingly cutting the wait prematurely. The track is 7 minutes of pure euphoria, sticking to a familiar energy, but updating the sound just enough to avoid turning the comeback into a rehash or a redundancy.
03. “4:44” Jay-Z
The title track and first single lifted from Jay-Z’s incredible 4:44 is more than just a timely reminder about why he is a living legend. What could be seen as his most direct response to wife Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the track honestly and remorsefully addresses his past infidelity head-on, a move so uncharacteristically earnest for hip hop it’s almost uncomfortable at times. However, Jay’s willingness to embrace something so authentic in his life resulted in another landmark moment in his career.
02. “HUMBLE.” Kendrick Lamar
After solidifying his position as the most important figure in hip hop in the world today, “HUMBLE.” feels both like a well-deserved victory lap and a necessary step in a new direction for Kendrick Lamar. Stripped of the vintage jazz, funk, and soul sounds that saturated his previous projects, the track is a compact trap-lite anthem with a perfectly brief hook. For all of the intricacies it lacks, “HUMBLE.” holds up seamlessly alongside his greatest works, and will no doubt go down as one of them.
01. “Green Light” Lorde
After instantaneously establishing herself as both a critical and commercial juggernaut with her debut album, Lorde had more pressure on her than most would going into her sophomore project. Trusting her instincts, she kicked off her Melodrama LP with the euphoric “Green Light,” an audacious electropop heartbreak anthem. There’s nothing intuitive, from a listener’s perspective, about the track, and yet it manages to remain as infectious as any of her previous hits without falling into the trap of trying to recreate them, a mistake often attributed to the sophomore slumps of countless “could-have-beens.” Instead, Lorde cemented her place in both popular and alternative music as one of the most talented, creative, and important artists of this generation by simply delivering something refreshing. Despite the certainty that she has a long, successful career ahead of her, it’s very possible that “Green Light” could go down as her magnum opus.
Check out all 100 Best Songs Of The Year (sans a couple of Jay-Z tracks) right HERE!